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Canadians more likely to rely on pharmacists as health source, survey finds


Patients in Canada are more likely than those of many countries to rely on pharmacists as a source of health information and to want to have a say in how they are treated by doctors, according to a worldwide survey of attitudes towards health care.

The survey of residents in 28 countries across five continents was conducted by Environics Research Group. Part of the poll was previously released but the full report will only be made public later this week.

According to polling data not released until now, Canadians rely on pharmacists to get health information at a much higher rate than that reported in most other countries surveyed.

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Within the past year, 43 per cent of Canadian respondents said they had consulted a pharmacist as a source of information for health concerns.

In contrast, only 20 per cent of American respondents and 23 per cent in Britain turned to their pharmacists to inform themselves.

The incidence of Canadians who received health services from a pharmacist (58 per cent) was also higher than the global average (45 per cent).

In France, 85 per cent of respondents received treatment from a pharmacist. However, the Environics report noted that French pharmacists undergo longer training and have authority to treat minor ailments.

"In Canada, the physician is usually the initial point of consultation for these types of issues, whereas in France, it is the pharmacist," the survey report said.

The opinion poll also found that a majority of Canadian (75 per cent) said they wanted to make treatment decisions jointly with their doctors.

Similar numbers were recorded in Germany and Slovenia, while 82 per cent of Americans and 79 per cent of Hungarians said they wanted to have an input on their health treatment.

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In general, respondents in G8 nations wanted to have a say in their treatment, Environics found.

In 10 countries – Romania, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Chile, Lithuania, Colombia, China, Pakistan and Turkey – patients preferred leaving the decision making to their doctors.

"Nations that tend to have lower levels of Internet access and other mass media penetration tend to be the ones where people look to the physician to make the treatment decision on their behalf," the survey report said.

Previously released data from the poll showed that nearly two-thirds of Canadians believe inefficient management, not lack of money, is the main problem hobbling the country's health care system.

Among G8 countries, Canada was the only one where a majority of respondents (52 per cent) had a positive view of their health system.

However, respondents who used the system more frequently liked it less. For example, 53 per cent of Canadians who took prescription medication for a chronic condition were more likely to state that the system is either in or heading to a state of crisis.

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Environics' Global Health Perspectives survey was conducted between August and October of last year. It polled 22,364 residents of 28 countries. In Canada, 1,006 adults were polled online.

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National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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